Yale Athletics

This Friday, Nov. 10, the Bulldogs will transition from the Ivy League Postseason to the NCAA Postseason. They took a weekend off after their last competition on Oct. 28 and are getting ready for the NCAA Cross Country Northeast Regional Championship coming up in the Bronx, New York. 

The Bulldogs are coming off solid performances at the Ivy League Championships, where the men placed fourth and the women placed sixth. They will head to Van Cortlandt Park, where they raced earlier this season in mid-October at the IC4A and ECAC Championships. The Bulldogs, however, see it as just another step in their season.

“This weekend’s NCAA regionals is just another step in our season – we have prepared for the length of the race since day 1 and so were excited to show our strength and continue the season strong,” men’s team captain Sean Kay ’24 wrote to the News. “Our goal from the beginning of the season has been to be a top 5 team in the region, and we still believe we can do it.”

The top two finishers at the NCAA regionals from each region get an automatic bid to the national championship the following weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, combining for a total of 18 automatic bids across nine regions throughout the country. After that, thirteen teams get an at-large bid as determined by the NCAA D1 Cross Country Subcommittee, resulting in a 31 team field.

In order to qualify for nationals as an individual runner, a racer must be one of the top four runners in their region not belonging to one of the two top teams, and they must also place in the top 25 overall in the meet. Last season, men’s senior captain Sean Kay was not far off, placing 19th — an all-region qualifying finish.

“Individually, Sean Kay is our highest returner finishing 19th a year ago,” men’s head coach Matt Gutridge wrote to the News. “I believe he is capable of putting himself in the top 10 which would give him a chance to be an NCAA individual qualifier. He was our only All-Region performer (top 25) last fall, so we hope to add a couple more this year.”

Last season, the men’s team placed ninth out of 33 teams, while the women’s team took the same spot in a slightly bigger field of 37 teams. Both teams look to improve on their finishes last year.

Gutridge believes his team has the potential to improve, not only upon last year’s finish but also upon the team’s finishes over the last 20 years.

“Similar to HEPS, the goal this weekend is to improve on our finish from last year,” Gutridge wrote to the News. “I believe the larger meet will help us with our strong pack. 7th place is the highest men’s highest finish in the last 20 years for the program, and we believe we can better that on Friday.”

Another aspect of the meet, not to be forgotten, is that this meet could mark the end of many Bulldog cross country careers. For the men’s team, Chris Brown ’24, Thomas Cirrito ’24, Aaron Cullen ’24, Liam Garrett ’24, captain Sean Kay, Stephen Moody ’24, Drake Prince ’24 and Martin Riddell ’24 could be running their last race. For the women’s team, Sophia Karperos ’24, Kyra Pretre ’24, Kathryn Rodrigues ’24 and Hannah Schupansky ’24 could also be doing the same. However, the goal, of course, is to have no career end and have every runner advance to the National Championships.

For Rodrigues, this means an opportunity to both enjoy the sport she loves for potentially one last time at the collegiate level and to represent the University that has given her this opportunity.

“Personally, I’ve been running cross country for half my life, and this Friday could be my last cross country race ever,” Rodrigues wrote to the News. “I am excited to savor the moment with my team and enjoy competing in my favorite sport one last time. Running for Yale has been a dream, and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to rep the Y.”

If either team or any individuals qualify, they will advance to the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday, Nov. 18.